Servers Alive Case Study: Extensibility
Network environments are constantly changing, which is often a source of frustration for IT staff and management. By the time a solution has been fully tested and implemented, it is obsolete and the cycle of requirements analysis, vendor quotes, purchase requests, testing, and deployments continues without seeming end.
Our case study company is aware of this, having previously gone through the entire process with several products. This time a solution that will grow with them and that can be expanded in almost any direction figures highly on their list of requirements.
Servers Alive is highly configurable and extensible. It can be customized in almost any way the user desires. In addition to built-in customizable features, Woodstone provides a framework for add-on components and even a source code example so that the user can develop their own features. If the customer lacks the time or the skillset needed, Woodstone can also provide development of custom monitoring solutions.
Servers Alive can be configured to monitor almost anything. Built in functionality allows the monitoring of Windows systems, processes and resources. Add-ons to monitor Linux and Unix processes and disk space are already available, along with plug-ins for services such as Lotus Notes. Out-of-the box, Servers Alive includes checks for Netware, Microsoft SQL, Oracle, and others.
The company currently can meet all their monitoring needs with existing functionality in Servers Alive or existing add-ons. Upon further investigation of Servers Alive's functionality, they would like to add automated checks of their IVR, which could be accomplished with dial-up networking and writing their own add-on.
Add-ons are written in Visual Basic and there is a fairly large user community developing them. In addition to the documentation, Woodstone offers a Servers Alive mailing list that allows users to communicate with each other. They also provide links to some web pages where Servers Alive users are making available add-ons that they have created for their own environments.
In addition to extending the reach of the program, allowing it to monitor different systems and platforms, it is also possible to configure the checks in the software. Servers Alive supports multiple protocols, including TCP, UDP, and DNS queries. Users can copy existing checks and then build their own from that base.
Servers Alive is flexible enough to be useful in a wide range of environments, for example it could be of use for a company hosting game servers with the built in ability to check the availability of Quake, Half-Life, and Tribes servers, amongst others. It could also be valuable in a web hosting environment, particularly with the MySQL COM add-on.
Custom add-ons are not only limited to interaction with the systems to be monitored. It is also possible to create add-ons for alerting and notification functionality. There are already additional add-ons for email notification available on Woodstone's web site, however there is no reason why a user could not develop their own add-on that would allow Servers Alive to report to an IRC channel through a bot, for instance.
Besides the flexibility in creating custom add-ons and checks for services, Servers Alive also provides flexible reporting and viewing features. Statistics can be viewed from within the program, current status can be viewed at the console, through a Telnet session, on a web site, or emailed to the user. The user can customize the generation of HTML reports, providing just the information that they need to see. This can be particularly useful in cases where you might want to see the same information reported by hostname and then reported by date.
In essence, Servers Alive is the ultimate network monitoring tool. It can be easily modified and adapted to different environments, and the user interface is easy to understand and manipulate. That in itself can be valuable for companies that don't have the resources, either financially or in staff, to have employees poring over documentation for days or out of the office for a week long training class.
Servers Alive allows the expansion of the server and network monitoring solution in almost any way that the customer requires. In addition to being easily customizable and highly configurable, the software is reasonably priced, providing huge long term savings as the customer continues to benefit.
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Now it's being used for the Womens World Cup 99 here in the United States. It's monitoring the machines (ping) and the Sybase SQL Server ports as well as routers. From here in Colorado, I'm able to know what's up or down at 8 cities (40+ hosts/processes), usually before they know it's down."